Monday, April 13, 2009

My Town Monday: Firefighting Kings

Alexander Joy Catrwright,
Honolulu Firefighter and the "Father of Baseball"

Guardians hover nearby

“Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire world; and whoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world”
The Talmud

Honolulu Fire Department's HQ & Museum

“It's true that heroes are inspiring, but mustn't they also do some rescuing if they are to be worthy of their name? Would Wonder Woman matter if she only sent commiserating telegrams to the distressed?”
Jeanette Winterson

Only our fire trucks arrive with a surfboard for rescues!

“We have been surfing our whole lives, so protecting the oceans and beaches is especially important to us. It is our honor and privilege to participate in such a worthy cause.”
Brandon Boyd

The first HFD Central Station/HQ opened on this Beretania St. site on December 1, 1897. The art deco replacement above opened in 1935. These aluminium doors came from the California Artistic Metal & Wire Company and cost $9,960.

January 11th, 1851 is considered the birthday of the Honolulu Fire Department (H F D). King Kamehameha III, whose decree was published on that day, was known to role up his sleeves alongside volunteer firefighters. They wore red shirts back then.

King Kalakaua, the "Merrie Monarch" was Himself the first secretary of Honolulu's Number 4 Engine Company during the 1880's. And Alexander Joy Cartwright (the father of baseball!) was appointed HFD's first Chief Engineer. He later rose to Department Chief through election, never returned to his native New York, and is buried here in Honolulu.

The "Protection Hook & Ladder Company" (today's Company Number 4) was founded in September of 1857 and staffed entirely by Hawaiians. China Engine Company Number 5 (January 1861) consisted of Chinese firefighters.

Each firehouse was an important part of it's immediate neighborhood, and of the life of the city - even politically. Maybe Cartwright brought a little "Tammany Hall" politics with him from New York.

Every February, the fire companies held street parades that showcased their "modern" equipment.

April 19, 1886 saw the Great Chinatown Fire which gobbled up many Honolulu city blocks. King Kalakaua himself helped to fight that one, inspiring everyone by his conduct on that day. In May of that year, the King signed our first building ordinances to help prevent future conflagrations. (He later threw the switch for Honolulu's first public electric lights in 1888, and installed telephones in Iolani Palace.)

On December 7, 1941 two HFD captains, John Carreira and Thomas S. Macy, were killed in the Pearl Harbor attack along with hose-man Harry T.L. Pang as HFD battled flames at Hickam Airfield. Six firefighters wounded in the attack received Purple Heart medals from the Territory's Military (Martial Law) Governor. They were the only civilian fire fighters ever awarded this military honor.

In June of 1946 the Army and Navy established a Mutual Aid Agreement with HFD to assist in the fighting of fires anywhere on the island. These agencies continue to cooperate.

Today Honolulu enjoys the protection of a modern HFD that flies it's own Helecopter and operates the fireboat "Moku Ahi."

So let's salute the people of the Honolulu Fire Department; The only department in the USA founded by Royalty, that grew up in a Territory, and flourishes today in a modern city.

Thank you, HFD.

And thank each of YOU for visiting my town today!

A L O H A! Cloudia